Meadowlark Farm is a 3 Acre, certified organic family farm owned and operated by John and Michelle Progar and their 2 and ½ year old son Theo. At 48 and 43 years old we bring over 40 years of farming and nursery experience to our farm. After working extensively on farms throughout Michigan, we began traveling to different farms searching for new opportunities and challenges. Looking to increase our knowledge of orcharding, we headed west. We discovered many small organic orchards in the Kettle Falls area, and over the last 11 years worked throughout the area, eventually saving enough to purchase the five acres we now call home.
Situated in Pleasant Valley, we are approximately 15 miles from the small town of Kettle Falls WA, 90 miles north of Spokane WA, and over 300 miles east of Seattle WA. The 2017 season will be our ninth year in production. We have built sufficient infrastructure on the farm as well as demand for our products to require additional help. As we live in a relatively remote area of Eastern Washington, finding help can be a challenge, so we have chosen to broaden our search for individuals interested in agriculture and experiencing life on a small farm.
As we worked as both woofers and interns for many years, we believe we can offer many benefits to individuals who have a true interest in small-scale agriculture, hard work, and the rewards that come from producing your own food and income. In searching for an internship, one advantage individuals receive at Meadowlark over larger farms is the personal attention they receive, as well as learning the many different jobs required to produce the diverse array of high-quality products that we are known for in our community. The majority of our produce is direct marketed to our customers at the Northeast Washington Farmers Market, located in Colville Washington, approximately 25 miles from the farm.
Interns can expect to become familiar with seeding, planting, harvesting, and selling numerous varieties of vegetables. Some of the things we grow and sell include lettuce, a prepared salad mix, spinach, beets carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, celery, potatoes, onions kale, radishes tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, green beans, eggplant, peppers, Asian greens, turnips, sweet corn, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, and leeks.
We also specialize in growing rose geranium, producing approximately 1500 pounds each year to be locally distilled into a high-quality hydrosol.
Over the past nine years we have also planted 60 apple and pear trees, so interns can expect to learn the basics of fruit tree care and maintenance. In the spring of 2017 we will be planting 150 blueberry plants to add more diversity to our farm offerings.
The overall vision of Meadowlark is a highly diversified, efficient small-scale farming operation. Our production begins in our newly constructed 48 by 30 propagation greenhouse. We start all of the vegetables we grow from seed so the intern can expect to become familiar with seeding,planting, and seedling care. All seeds are planted into soil blocks made on the farm. Soil block making and seeding are the main jobs in the early spring, before the weather outside is conducive for planting. Early April begins the planting season as cold hardy vegetables such as spinach, beets, and kale are planted in the garden. All beds are prepared with our walk behind tractor, then fertilized and planted by hand. Our intern will need to be comfortable with spreading fertilizers as well as working on their hands and knees. Once planting is finished, each bed is set up with drip tape irrigation and it is covered with row cover material. Interns will become efficient in drip tape installation as well as establishing the protective tunnels and the use of row covers. This system of irrigation and row cover tunnels is the basis of the high-quality vegetables produced each year at Meadowlark Farm. The row cover allows not only for early season and late season planting, but shields the plants from destructive insects, cold nights, and the often windy conditions which persist throughout the year in this mountain valley.The row cover also reduces our watering needs by conserving water in this dry region, as well as reducing or eliminating our need for pesticides. This makes the quality of our produce above most organic standards.
Although the busiest time for planting is in the spring months, it is an ongoing job at the farm. Beyond planting, interns can expect to spend the summer months doing the many jobs to keep the garden in good shape. Watering, hand cultivation,hoeing, care of the fruit trees, mulching, fertilizing, and tomato pruning are a few of the jobs necessary throughout the year.
Our market season begins in the first week of May and goes through the end of October, consisting of approximately 52 markets per year. Market days are Saturday and Wednesday of each week. As the garden grows more productive throughout the season, interns can expect to learn some of the many jobs of preparing produce for the market: Preparing salad mix, harvesting and bunching beets, carrots, kale, and chard. Harvesting and washing lettuce, spinach, and potatoes. Once harvested, all vegetables are cleaned and processed, and prepared for market with the highest level of quality and attention to detail. As we pride ourselves on the quality of our vegetables, we look for an intern who is detail-oriented, but understands how to work in an efficient manner. Given the wide variety of tasks interns will come to master, this position is a perfect opportunity for individuals looking to expand their knowledge of small-scale intensive farming, either for their own personal knowledge or to assist them in shaping a vision of their own farming operation. As we ourselves have learned from trial and error, and made many mistakes along the way, interning at Meadowlark is a great way to create a starting point for your own vision. As we live and work in close quarters, we are looking for someone who is organized, motivated, self-directed, hard-working,and places a high value on a job well done. Given the intense physical nature of farming, interns will need to be in good physical shape and be able to lift 50+ pounds. They must alsobe willing to work in cold, hot, dry, and wet conditions. Working on hands and knees is common for planting and weeding. Individuals with positive attitudes and good social skills, who are comfortable living and working with others are appreciated. As we have a young child, respectful individuals and healthy role models are of the utmost importance. Use of alcohol and marijuana is prohibited during work hours but we have no restrictions against the moderate and appropriate use of such substances outside of work hours.
Helping display and sell vegetables at the market, as well as handling money and interacting in a positive manner with our customers is also important for those interns who want to assist at the Farmers Market. For their hard work and commitment to helping our farm and family, our intern will be compensated in numerous ways. A private room in our house, including laundry, hot shower, and all basic food stocks are provided. Interns will also share in the enormous bounty of the garden, as well as the products of neighboring farms with which we barter. We consider ourselves mostly vegetarian, although local meat is at times offered. Our main preference for meals is fresh produce from the garden.
A typical day begins between 6 and 8 a.m. depending on the season and the weather. As spring and fall are cool in the mornings, we often start a little later. Once the summer heat builds,6am is the preferred start time. Interns are asked to work 7 hours per day. A morning shift of 6 hours with a ½ hour breakfast break, then one hour in the late afternoon to early evening to help complete any unfinished projects. Sunday is a day of rest for interns to allow them to catch up on sleep or simply relax. After a two week trial period,a stipend of $400 per month is provided for the first month. After one month, the stipend is increased to $500. If an intern would like to stay more than three months the stipend is increased to $600 per month. We may occasionally ask in our intern to work beyond the seven-hour day and in this case interns will be paid $8 per hour for those hours. This is totally at the discretion and desire of the intern, as we respect the established work schedule.
As we ourselves have WWOOFed and interned for many years of our lives, we realize that the true value of an internship at Meadowlark is the knowledge and experience one will gain in a relatively short amount of time. Length of stay can vary, with preference given to those wishing for a longer stay.
Finally, we ask anyone considering an internship at our farm to be realistic and honest about not only their interests, but their ability to perform the jobs presented to them from day to day on the farm. Farming is a demanding yet rewarding job, so please consider the physical and psychological challenges inherent in this at times repetitious and physically demanding job.